GLOUCESTER CITY, New Jersey (WPVI) -- A South Jersey family turned to Action News after they say the contractor their elderly father hired skipped out on the job.
Jackie Sherriton says her father, Warren Theckston, paid the deposit for a home addition after her sister, Teresa, was paralyzed in a tragic accident.
Teresa Theckston fell down a flight of stairs in July 2019 and severed her spinal cord at the T11 vertebra. The accident left her paralyzed.
Theckston said her accident weighed heavily on her father.
"It broke my heart because I know it crushed him," Theckston said.
A month prior, doctors had diagnosed Teresa with breast cancer. Theckston said their father knew he needed to renovate her Gloucester City home.
"At least if I had that room built over there, I could go in there and you know, have my own space," Theckston said.
Sherriton said her dad's plan was a first-floor addition with a bathroom and handicap ramp.
Her father hired 4th Generation Contracting after finding the company on HomeAdvisor.
Sherriton told Action News the two sides agreed on a $33,000 price and a handshake agreement, no written contract, which is a violation of the New Jersey Home Improvement Practices Act.
State licensing records show Paul Pierce owns the company and that he was a newly licensed contractor.
"And from there we never saw them again," said Sherriton.
But not before, Warren Theckston wrote an $8,000 deposit check in September 2019.
The permits were obtained in mid-November and the family says Pierce didn't show up for the agreed-upon start date a few days later.
"They took advantage of his age," Sherriton said.
Action News asked Pierce why he didn't show for the Theckston job.
At first, he said he had no clue. Pierce then retracted and said the Theckstons breached the contract and the two sides just couldn't agree on a refund amount.
We asked him to show us proof.
"I have the text messages where I tried to resolve the issue," Pierce said.
"Can you show us the text messages?" asked Action News.
"No. I cannot," Pierce replied.
After our encounter, and nearly a year after being paid a deposit, Pierce and the family agreed on a refunded amount of $8,000.
"Your involvement was huge," said Sherriton.
But neither Warren Theckston nor his daughter Teresa are alive.
"I knew that mentally he was very depressed over the situation," Sherriton said.
On November 25, 2019, Warren, who'd been in the hospital for heart problems, sent this text to Pierce:
"Why you want to keep my 10 grand I gave you. Can't believe you do this to a dying old man and crippled daughter."
Later that day, Warren took his own life. He was 82 years old.
In March, Teresa lost her battle with breast cancer not long after we interviewed her for this story.
At that time, she said of the loss of her dad, "He felt he let me down and the whole family down."
"My sister carried that on her shoulders until the day she passed away because she felt that if it wasn't for her, my father would never have done what he had to do to take the pain away," Sherriton said.
Pierce has sent the estate of Warren Theckston a check for $4,000 and has agreed to pay the other half at a later date.
The family said the money will go to Teresa Theckston's daughter who is heading to college.